Jess Cavalari (T/he/y)

Doctoral Candidate
Jesse Cavalari and his friend Pancho

Contact Information


PhD Candidacy at UW, 2023
M.A., History, Northern Arizona University, 2018
B.A., History, State University of New York, New Paltz, 2014
A.A., Orange County Community College, 2012
Curriculum Vitae (158.38 KB)

I'm interested in histories of disease, medicine, and public health and global environmental history in Latin America and the Caribbean. My MA thesis examined English privateers as creators and circulators of scientific knowledge about the natural world between 1680 and 1720. My first research project at the PhD level took a digital historical approach to the study of the prescription records of a British colonial doctor working in Nevis in the 1880s, illuminating the global circulation of tropical medicaments and the micro politics of colonial public health in the Caribbean.

My dissertation research focuses on the colonial history of Panamá. I explore the mule trains that travelled on the colonial roads that were integral to the imperial networks of the global Spanish empire-- the Camino de Cruces and the Camino Real. Prior to the canal of the 20th century and the railroad of the 19th century, the Caminos, and the mule trains that travelled them, were the backbone of the Panamanian economy and a lynchpin of the burgeoning global imperial economy. The transportation network, or trajín, that connected the Pacific and Atlantic worlds depended on the labor, expertise, and resources of people across Central America. My dissertation probes into the social ecology of the trajín, and the environmental experiences of the transportation industry. A close examination of the colonial society that developed around the trajín economy reveals the unrivaled global significance of Panamá in the early modern world. The stories of the trajín also illuminate the richness of colonial society in Panamá through an exploration of the lives and labor of the diverse cast of historical actors that kept things moving on the Camino Real and the Camino de Cruces.